TORONTO -- A war is heating up among businesses in a southwestern Virginia town.

For the past week and a half, businesses in the town of Christiansburg, Va. have engaged in a friendly "sign war," poking light-hearted fun at each other through puns.

It all started when Jim Bohan, who owns Bridge Kaldro, a local music store, put up a sign challenging Super Shoes, the shoe store next door, to a sign war on April 16 with a sign that read, "Hey Super Shoes! Wanna start a sign war?"

After a few days, Super Shoes replied, "Hey Bridge Kaldro! Our shoe 8trings (sic) are stronger than your guitar strings."

"I was kind of worried maybe their corporate wouldn't allow them, and then all of a sudden they clapped back at it and set the town on fire," Bohan told in a phone interview.

As Bridge Kaldro and Super Shoes were trading jabs, the war ramped up with more businesses joining in, including Chelsa Stassin and her salon, Cut it Out. She wrote, "Hey Sonic, we wax our customers buns. What do you do?" taking aim at the Sonic Drive-in burger restaurant next door.

"I was like, 'Well, I need to join in on this too.' I've had a marquee outside of my salon for the past five years and I was like, 'You know what, I'm going to put it to good use,'" said Stassin in a phone interview with

To keep track of the signs, Christiansburg resident Anthony Woodyard started a Facebook group where residents can share photos of signs. As of Sunday afternoon, the group has amassed over 19,200 members, attracting global sign war fans.

"As someone who has experience in communications and PR, I know how expensive ad sales can be. And I really saw this as a way to publicize and offer some marketing to our local businesses that wouldn't cost them anything," Woodyard told over the phone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on small businesses across the world, including in Christiansburg. Amid these difficult times, Stassin says the sign war has been a big morale boost for the town.

"Just to have somebody kind of chuckle with what I've put up just really, it really makes me feel good."

Woodyard hopes the sign war in Christiansburg can serve as a model of how other communities can build local engagement in a fun way.

"I want to encourage people to, to join us and have fun, and do something similar in your own hometowns and have fun with it. COVID had way more than just an impact on public health. It's also affected the economy, and our businesses, and it's affected the mental health of people who are who are stuck at home," said Woodyard.

"I think that community engagement and community development are so incredibly important right now."